Alpha Des Obeaux was a clear second best behind Thistlecrack at Cheltenham and, with Colin Tizzard’s exceptional talent out of the way this time, he can have his day in the sun in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown.
It is a shame for Irish racegoers that Thistlecrack does not get the chance to strut his stuff due to a minor setback, but it does allow Alpha Des Obeaux a chance of victory at the highest level for trainer Mouse Morris.
The swings and roundabouts in this game are amazing and after a wretched run of luck with his horses, this season has seen Morris return right to the top, winning both the English and Irish Grand Nationals. He has always rated Alpha Des Obeaux, and he would have been second to Thistlecrack at Aintree last season had he not fallen before going on to finish as runner-up to Nichols Canyon at this meeting over two and a half miles.
His owners were keen to send him chasing this term, but Morris knew he was capable of reaching greater heights over timber and so it has proved, unfortunately for the six-year-old he is around at the same time as one of the greatest staying hurdlers of the modern era.
He warmed up for Cheltenham by winning the Galmoy Hurdle comfortably, despite hating the ground, and was the only horse to finish in the same parish as Thistlecrack at Cheltenham, beaten seven lengths.
Morris skipped Aintree to keep him fresh for this and his patience can be rewarded before he no doubt goes chasing next season.
It is simply impossible to make a case for anything to beat Douvan in the Ryanair Novice Chase. The six-year-old could be the closest thing we have seen to Kauto Star in that he has so much ability, distance may be no object.
Since joining Willie Mullins, he has never been asked to race over much further than two miles but he has such a scopey stride and he takes so little out of himself jumping fences, there is absolutely no reason to think he would not stay three miles.
Rather than blasting off in the manner of Un De Sceaux, Douvan just finds himself in front as nothing can go with him and victories through the Irish winter on heavy ground and at the last two Cheltenham Festivals on good ground suggest underfoot conditions do not bother him one iota.
Unbeaten in nine races since joining Mullins, his smallest winning distance was in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle when none other than Alpha Des Obeaux closed to within three and a half lengths.
Enda Bolger’s Josies Orders can atone for a luckless run in the cross-country chase at Cheltenham by winning the La Touche Cup, despite top weight.
There is every reason to think David O’Meara’s Dandyleekie can defy a 3lb rise in the Racing UK Profits Returned To Racing Handicap at Redcar. A decent performer in Ireland for Ger Lyons, he appeared to be starting life in Britain on a favourable mark and so it proved, as he won at the first time of asking for new connections at Ripon.
That was over six furlongs in heavy ground and he needed every inch of that trip to get up close home.
Most of his best form in Ireland was over seven furlongs so it is no surprise to see O’Meara step him up in trip for what appears to be a weaker race than the one he won.
John Gosden’s Exist is bred to be much better than an opening mark of 78 and she can take full advantage in the Dave Sackett Interactive 3-Y-O Fillies’ Handicap at Lingfield.
Third on debut at Leicester when an odds-on favourite, she made no mistake next time at Windsor and this half-sister to Temple Meads can continue her progression.
5.55 Gerrard’s Fur Coat
6.30 Symbolic (nap)
7.30 Daisy Boy
8.00 Saved My Bacon
8.30 We Are Ninety
9.00 Foie Gras
2.20 What A Party
2.50 Inniscastle Lad
3.55 Fire And Passion
4.30 Baileys Mirage
3.40 Joshua Lane
4.15 Sizing Codelco
4.50 Josies Orders
5.30 Alpha Des Obeaux
6.05 Cup Final
7.15 Missy Tata
7.45 Tamlough Boy.
2.05 Baltic Beau
3.05 Dream Farr
3.35 Ice Alert
4.45 A J Cook
5.15 Air Glider
5.45 Runswick Relax
6.15 Down Time
7.20 Hey Bob
7.50 Play The Ace
8.20 Bah Lamb
Alpha Des Obeaux